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Understanding Wildfire Warnings, Watches and Behavior

  • Red Flag Warning: Take Action. Be extremely careful with open flames. NWS issues a Red Flag Warning, in conjunction with land management agencies, to alert land managers to an ongoing or imminent critical fire weather pattern. NWS issues a Red Flag Warning when fire conditions are ongoing or expected to occur within the next 24 hours.
  • Fire Weather Watch: Be Prepared. A Watch alerts land managers that upcoming weather conditions could result in critical fire weather conditions, which are expected to develop in the next 12 to 48 hours, but not more than 72 hours. In cases of dry lightning, a Fire Weather Watch may be issued for the next 12 hours.
  • Extreme Fire Behavior: This implies a wildfire raging out of control. It is often hard to predict these fires because they behave erratically, sometimes dangerously. One or more of the following criteria must be met:
    • Moving fast: High rate of spread
    • Prolific crowning and/or spotting
    • Presence of fire whirls
    • Strong convection column